Need an idea for a unique gift this holiday season? How about a jacket that unlocks access to exclusive dining, art, retail and fashion experiences in New York, directly through its own sleeve?
That’s the premise behind a new connected design from New York-based brand Rochambeau, a 2016 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist and a Menswear Woolmark award winner. A limited run of just 15 jackets are due for release in December, each one with embedded digital tags that act as a VIP pass to a highly sought-after event, hand-picked by the founders, including a tasting menu for two at Toro restaurant, a personal tour at New Release gallery or velvet rope entry to the most exclusive nightclubs.
The initiative is a partnership with Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division and Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG, following its announcement earlier in 2016 of its #BornDigital concept, which aims to digitize 10 billion items of clothing and accessories over the next three years.
The Bright BMBR jackets, as they’re called, are powered by Avery Dennison’s Janela™ platform. That means a combination of custom NFC chips and QR codes in place under a hidden zipper pocket in the left sleeve, marked by the Romchambeau “R” logo, both of which have serialized codes on them to connect to their data profiles in EVRYTHNG’s IoT cloud. Consumers only have to use their smartphones to access the hidden content behind them – their unique New York experience as well as a signed, numbered piece of artwork inspired by the jacket and an individual “making-of” video. At the end of the fall/winter season, each smart jacket also turns into a New York Fashion Week ticket to Rochambeau’s spring 2017 runway show.
Laurence Chandler, co-founder of Rochambeau, said: “These days people want experiences more than just objects. Everyone loves being in a city with a super clued-up friend who not only knows where to find all the hidden treasures, but has the connections to get you the best table or under the velvet rope. A Rochambeau Bright BMBR smart jacket has a digital life of it’s own and connects you into the world of art and culture that inspired the brand. Rochambeau does the selection and curation of experiences, the jacket and consumer does the unlocking. The spirit of creative collaboration and exploration is something that’s at the core of what we do, so it made sense to look at what experiences are out there in this city of ours and how the items we design can unlock them.”
The jackets will be on sale for $630 exclusively via retail partner The New Stand, a next generation experiential store located at New York’s Union Square station, Brookfield Place, and Columbus Circle. The experience of the jacket is also extended through geolocation – when it’s scanned within 500 yards of one of the stores, it will provide further access to a personalized gift for the wearer.
Lex Kendall, COO and co-founder of The New Stand, says: “The future of [the] IoT is awe-inspiring and fashion is one of the relatable early expressions of how the digital lives of inanimate objects can truly help both consumer and producers alike… The New Stand aims to provide customers with the essentials needed to make their days easier, and with new discoveries to make them better. The Bright BMBR is an interesting mix of these two concepts.”
While the jackets are a great example of the possibilities of connected clothing, Andy Hobsbawm, CMO and co-founder of EVRYTHNG, refers to the project as a dramatized version of where this is all moving. “We wanted to inspire people to what the possibilities are. A lot of brands and businesses have to go through a certain amount of process and complexity to bring stuff to market, so it can really help to dramatize what a potential end state looks like; a product that has a digital life, that embodies the principles and the strategies the platform is there to support,” he explains. “While we’re talking to bigger brands, we’re always looking for faster moving things as well that can help tell that story; help everyone understand a #BornDigital garment and what it can do.”
With just 15 jackets, the Rochambeau designers have of course been able to handpick and curate what the accompanying personalized experiences look like, but the point of the technology is to otherwise systemize and scale specific content.
As Deon Stander, vice president and general manager of Avery Dennison’s RBIS division, explains: “A use case such as the Rochambeau smart jacket paves the way for other retailers to incorporate applications and services that connect more intelligently with consumers. Brands will become more interactive, providing personalized, real-time mobile experiences and content for each individual consumer and each item of clothing. Products will become an owned media channel that can connect with all consumers, regardless of where they purchase.”
At the heart of that also lies the possibility to gather data. By being digitally-connected the products can provide insights about how they’re being experienced in the world in a way that was completely hidden before. “The ability to provide a one-to-one connection with the wearer of your clothing and get unique insights into how an individual product is used is something that’s incredibly exciting, not only to us, but for the world of fashion in general,” Chandler notes.
Adds Hobsbawm: “It actually dimensionalizes the product in new ways. There is amazing potential to create new products that have all the best bits of existing products – beautifully designed, wonderfully crafted, functional yet cultural artifacts – but that also have a dimension to them now that is living and constantly talking to the network, and delivering back services and experiences based on the context of who you are and how you use it as a result. This seems to me a pretty serious enhancement of the business of fashion. And this [project] shows that really nicely I hope.”
He sees the future of fashion as being about having digital as a material in the design process. “Many brands see digital as a channel; they’re doing digital, not being digital. When you start looking at technology as a material that you can weave in as an actual part of your product experience instead; that’s very powerful, together that creates something new.”